The Saturday night matchup between the Boston University men’s ice hockey team (9-2-0) versus the University of Connecticut Huskies (8-9-2) included everything great about college hockey. Hard hits were constant, fantastic finishes were plentiful, phenomenal saves were abundant, and there was even a sprinkle of controversy for good measure. In the end, the Terriers will gladly take the 3-2 overtime win in UConn’s Freitas Ice Forum.
The legend of Vinny Duplessis continues to grow, as the two time defending Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week put in another great performance between the pipes. With no backup goaltender for the Terriers available, the freshman was without a safety net. Fortunately for head coach Albie O’Connell and the Terriers, Duplessis was only beaten twice, both in the first period, and made 27 saves in victory. If only the goaltender can find some luck on deflections, as both UConn scores went off BU players and in.
“I think Vinny knowing that he was the only guy to go, he played another terrific game,” O’Connell said postgame. “He really managed the game well. He was a big factor and is off to a terrific start for any goalie.”
The intensity was there from the moment the puck was dropped. The Huskies and Terriers both exchanged explosive body checks in the first minute in UConn’s zone. After 8 days off for the Huskies, they did not waste any time finding the back of the net.
Jachym Kondelik was able to win a puck battle on the near-side boards. The junior forward then found John Spetz open occupying the blue-line. The freshman laid the puck over to his defense partner Carter Berger. After creating some space, the sophomore served an attempt on net and it was deflected past Duplessis for a UConn goal. The Huskies drew first blood 1:28 into the dogfight.
UConn was far from finished taking the play to BU. The Huskies dictated pace of play with a flurry of chances against the Terriers. They peppered the freshman netminder with 15 shots in the first 20 minutes.
Ironically, UConn’s second goal of the contest came from a pass attempt. On a delayed power play, senior Brian Rigali whipped the puck near the crease trying to find the tape of a teammate. Unfortunately for BU, the forward found Cade Webber’s skate instead. The puck deflected off the freshman defenseman’s left foot and then just ticked Duplessis’ right blade. The puck then drifted past the goal-line, giving the Huskies a 2-0 lead with 4:28 to go in the period.
UConn was dominating play and were going to have a world of momentum heading into the first intermission. With under a minute remaining, BU’s top line knew they had to make a play to shift the tide.
Max Kaufman led the first line in a rush up the ice. After drawing two defenders with him, the senior laid a slick backhand feed over to Jay O’Brien. The transfer sophomore, who was no doubt feeling great after recording a hat trick in his last outing, put on a stick handling display before roofing the puck home for BU’s first goal of the game. That score cut the Huskies lead in half, as the game was 2-1 in favor of the Huskies after 20 minutes.
In the second period, the intensity was cranked up even higher. 2:34 into the period, junior forward Kale Howarth drilled freshman forward Nick Zabaneh with a late hit from behind. Zabaneh’s helmet was dislodged on the hit, which left his head vulnerable as he fell awkwardly to the ice.
The hit immediately drew ire from the Terriers, and an intense scrum ensued. After the referees had a conversation, Howarth was assessed a five minute roughing major and disqualified from the contest.
Zabaneh was bleeding on the ice when team personnel came to assess his condition. He would return to play in the period.
On the five minute power play, BU generated a couple of grade-A chances. Freshman forward Luke Tuch tried to jam a score past goaltender Tomas Vomacka three times, but the junior netminder held the line. The Terriers were unable to muster the equalizer, as the major ended early. O’Brien was given a goalie interference penalty that negated the final 1:15 of the penalty.
Even with abundant body checks and scoring chances, Duplessis and Vomacka did not allow any rubber past them in the second period. While they did not find the back of the net, BU made it a point to get more pucks on net and outshot UConn 12-7 over those 20 minutes. Tensions were high as the Huskies and Terriers left the ice for intermission.
During the third period, both goaltenders were outstanding. Duplessis and Vomacka were exchanging 10 bell saves as if it were a heavyweight fight. With time winding down in regulation, the Terriers again looked to their top line.
With just over six minutes left, Logan Cockerill showed why he wears the C on his chest. He battled and put in unbelievable work on the boards to keep the play alive.
As the puck was jammed loose, Webber made a fantastic play to keep the puck in UConn’s zone. Cockerill corralled the puck and had a lot of room to work with near the left circle. Away from the play, Kaufman found room in the slot and the captain saw him. Cockerill whipped a pass to his line-mate who promptly ripped home the game tying score.
“It was a great hockey sense by Kaufman to find that little open ice in that seam,” O’Connell said. “It was just, all in all, a huge play, especially at that time in the game and at the junction of what we were trying to do in the offensive zone. (UConn) is tough, especially in their own zone. They’re really hard to play against.”
After two deflected scores put BU down 0-2, the Terriers knotted the contest at two a piece with just over six minutes remaining in regulation.
Then controversy ensued.
BU’s Markus Boguslavsky appeared to have interfered with UConn’s Artem Shlaine on an attempted chip and chase with 2:13 left in the period. However, the referees determined that both players impeded the other. So, four- on- four hockey was decided after the Terrier sophomore and Huskie freshman were banished to the box.
Then with 1:17 to go, O’Brien was tripped up battling for the puck near the two benches. UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh was irate, but his complaints fell on deaf ears. The Terriers skated four against three for the remainder of regulation. Despite a phenomenal chance from O’Brien on the doorstep, neither team was able to pot the game winner in regulation.
The Huskies and Terriers were destined for overtime after such a competitive, entertaining 60 minutes. BU would get 43 seconds on the man advantage at the top of the extra session.
Under a minute into overtime, now even strength, Tuch gained the zone looking to end the contest. He slid a pass to Cockerill, but Jonny Evans made a strong defensive play and stood up BU’s captain. But Tuch scooped up the loose puck and walked right into the slot. The freshman then fired the puck right past Vomacka for the game winning score.
Tuch’s fourth lamplighter of the season sprung the Terriers to a 3-2 overtime victory. This game was BU’s second two goal comeback this season, as they also erased a two score deficit to and finished off the UMass Minutemen in overtime back on January 18th.
Without senior defenseman David Farrance and freshman goaltender Drew Commesso, the Terriers have posted an impressive four game winning streak. A huge part of this run has been the return of Cockerill, who has put up four assists in his last two games.
The Terriers next matchup will be announced by Hockey East on Tuesday. Follow @BOShockeyblog on Twitter for updates and coverage of Boston University Men’s and Women’s hockey teams.